The art of speaking is the key to charming your audience during a presentation. We constantly insist on this matter here on SOAP’s blog. However, the visual part has a huge influence too. Brilliant speech and script are almost worthless if the slides are shoddy.
In a corporative presentation is undeniable that you must represent your company identity in all aspects. It’s essential to pass out professionalism and organization to your target.
But how to deal with the visual identity? The tips below will help you imprint more personality and coherence to your support material.
1. Color palette
Before settling on the colors for your presentation, make sure they are in line with your company’s brand and are suitable for the matter in discussion. The shades you choose should also be familiar to the audience. Therefore, you will have a more befitting layout to the context. For instance, you must not design a presentation with shadows of orange for a bank whose main competitor uses such a palette.
The focus here should be “readability”, i.e., whether it is possible to read the slide. Use at least a size 18 font for continuous texts. This will also stop you from overfilling the presentation with unnecessary texts, which may spoil the slide.
Now, the utmost importance tip: always use system fonts, i.e., the standard fonts that come with Windows operational system, such as Arial. If you use a font downloaded from the internet and your file is read on a computer where it is not available, the system will automatically replace it for other fonts. And the layout you so carefully designed might just go down the drain.
Most people underestimate lines, but they can be extremely useful. You may use them to organize the content, establish necessary spaces, and set the tone for the presentation, giving the audience a feeling of organization.
When two or more lines meet, for instance, it is possible to observe sharp angles and tips, evoking technology and formality. Curved and soft lines bring forth lightness and sensitiveness; consecutive vertical lines, on the other hand, reveal organization and rigorousness.
4. Graphic elements
Graphic elements are objects that shape the visual messages on the slide – photos, icons, drawings, and shapes.
When using photos, bear in mind the moment an image gets to someone’s eyes, it automatically triggers memories and feelings, which might be either positive or negative. Therefore, the best option is to always seek for illustrations more likely to create positive connections with the audience. Images also help listeners understand and take in the message – especially in the case of short presentations.
Icons, diversely, are simplified and universal images – such as traffic signs – and they represent a fine alternative to illustrations. Drawings, both handmade and graphically created, are also great to ease the learning process. Such tool enables the apprehension of situations used as examples and makes the explanation more didactic.
To conclude, forms are used, basically, to establish spaces and highlight objects and information. Circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles may be employed to make a design more appealing. They might also come in handy if you need to organize or separate elements, represent an idea or lead your listeners’ sight to some direction.
5. Page background
The slide background must never be the dominant element, but an accessory tool in the presentation. Therefore, it cannot fight with the content for attention. They complement each other.
The blander the background? The easier way is to develop the layout of your presentation.
Regarding colors? A good choice is to use corresponding ones for backgrounds.
Another crucial advice is to avoid templates. This apparently harmless tool can kill creativity considerably. Some are so flashy they interfere with the layout or upstaging messages. Ideally, and whenever possible, you should design each slide from scratch; no restraints.
When the German-born illustrator and designer Christoph Niemann decides to talk about the creation of images, you must stop to listen. Not only for being a highly respected illustrator, but also for being one of the few who understands the power of visuals. Niemann knows how a drawing, no matter how simple, can deeply move the person looking at it.
The designer also understands simplicity, a concept we, here at SOAP, cherish. His work embraces minimalism in an impressive way, using few lines and colors. His uniqueness, as you can see from this TED Talk he gave, is the interaction between drawings and “real” objects, which make his illustrations striking and amusing. They say a lot with few resources.
The power of visual language
According to Niemann, what makes visual language powerful is the possibility of passing on a complex idea in a simple and efficient form, which is something we also endorse for presentations. Most importantly, images can trigger emotions. He uses the Wi-Fi symbol as an example: when we get to a new and unknown place and bump into this symbol, we feel happy, relieved.
When something is deeply engraved in our consciousness, we need fewer details to develop an emotion towards that. By using quite illustrative examples, the designer shows that happens because we are very good at “filling in the blanks”; images are drawn in our minds. Besides, images are excellent tools to start off the audience’s memory, since they are usually easier to take in than the written content of the slides.
Therefore, how much information we need to lead to audience’s comprehension, emotion and memorization? Niemann says his purpose as an artist is to use “the smallest amount as possible”. “As a designer, is absolutely key to have a good understanding of the visual and cultural vocabulary of your audience”, he says. If you read SOAP’S blog, you probably know we always insist on that matter. For a good communication, we must take into consideration the onlookers’ knowledge and references, whether it is one person, or an auditorium filled to capacity.
Niemann also says most people underestimate others’ capacity to interpret images, that’s why we see so many clichés out there. “They won’t understand this new approach, we should go for something more familiar.”
Here at SOAP, we often go through that. It is customary to have our suggestion to use metaphors denied by a client who is insecure and would rather use a most obvious strategy. However, when we make an unexpected association, we trigger the audience’s brain, enabling them to take in the message for longer. This is our job: not just to illustrate, but to develop a visual symbol that will enhance the comprehension of the message.
And Niemann reminds us we should not undervalue people when we create these symbols. After all, they are “fluent” when considering visual language (even if they are unaware of that), a fact to be considered when designing the layout of presentations.
The “Wow!” moment
Niemann considers himself successful when his illustrations have the “Aha!” effect on people. But he highlights it does not mean he had had an eureka moment when he came up with the image. “I need a presentation that has the ‘Wow!’ effect” – that is the reason why most of our clients come to us, because that is our strong suit.
Nevertheless, both SOAP’s and Niemann’s creative process is not “unsexy” at all, since it requires a number of small designing decisions that might lead to an idea. Like in poetry, the designer declares, we might unearth images that have been inside the audience’s mind all along, but they had no idea they were there to begin with.
Niemann concludes by stating what he considers to be an artist’s main feature, or skill: empathy; something we strongly subscribe to here at SOAP and in the projects we develop. Creativity is important, so is methodology, but we need to take a step back and look at the layout through the eyes of the listeners, which are the people to whom that piece of communication was developed. Once we achieved that, magic happens neither on paper nor on stage: it happens inside your audience’s mind.